PCC: Take a Break wrong to pay 'arsonist' for story

Take a Break magazine has been censured by the Press Complaints Commmission after it paid a convicted arsonist for her story.

Christine Wishart complained to the PCC that the real life weekly, published by Bauer, made a payment to a criminal in breach of clause 16 of the editors’ code of practice.

Wishart was the victim of an arson attack on her home for which Christine Chivers pleaded guilty.

Chivers’ story was published in Take a Break, which sells just under a million copies a week, in August last year.

In the story Chivers said that despite pleading guilty, she was in fact innocent.

Take a Break confirmed that it had paid £1,000 to Chivers’ daughter – but said that Chivers herself had not benefited.

It argued that the article was in the public interest because it highlighted an alleged miscarriage of justice.

It told the PCC: “The article had not sought to exploit a particular crime, nor had it glorified or glamorised crime in general.”

But upholding the complain,t the PCC said: “The piece amounted to an explanation about why Ms Chivers had pleaded guilty to the crime, and seemed to try to justify the crime (whoever was responsible) by criticising the behaviour of the complainant, Christine Wishart.

“It did not point to any clear evidence of a miscarriage of justice, and it was not part of a campaign to have the conviction quashed.

“It said that Ms Chivers had pleaded guilty in order to reduce her sentence, as she had been told that there was a considerable body of evidence against her.

“It was clear that the crime had been exploited for payment in breach of the Code, and there was no public interest to justify it. That was not to say that the magazine was prohibited from publishing Ms Chivers’ story.

“But the decision to offer payment was misguided and the editor should have recognised that immediately.”

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